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What makes a good dog?

Leura Rowsey dog
The author's dog, Rev.
The role of man's best friend is hard to define, but we'll try in honor of National Dog Month.

August is National Dog Month. Who knew? 

Best I can tell, dog biscuit maker, Milkbone, declared this a thing in 2020. I guess the dog days of summer were as good a time as any to honor man’s best friend. 

You meet a lot of dogs as an agricultural reporter. There’s always one or two hanging around a farm shop. Hardworking, high energy Australian Shepherds and Border Collies at cattle farms. Loyal Labs and Chessies that earn their keep during duck season but are just good company the rest of the year. Lovable mutts that are truly part of the family. 

Except for the occasional pup that gets a little too friendly, it’s a part of the job I enjoy. Farmers love their dogs and love sharing dog stories. Although talking about pets is a little like talking about your kids — we’ll never agree on whose are the smartest or cutest. 

What makes a good dog? That’s hard to define. For some a dog’s worth is measured by his usefulness. These canines wag their way into their owners’ hearts as they guard, herd or hunt. For others the best dog is a loyal companion. A buddy who is always close by, ready to jump in the truck or tractor cab at a moment’s notice. The great dogs are both dutiful and devoted. 

Studies have shown that dogs can make us happier, less stressed and more optimistic. I would say that depends on the dog. I’ve certainly had a few that have tested my patience — one in particular, that loved the taste of garbage. But I’ve had some good dogs, too. 

By far my favorite was a rescue named Allie. She was intelligent, well-mannered and a lot of fun. While not a purebred retriever, she would fetch anything you would throw as long as you would throw it. Tennis balls were her favorite. If you tossed one in the air, she would catch it every time. She would have made an excellent center fielder. 

Allie was protective of her people. Her typically calm demeanor would change in an instant when an unknown visitor approached. You felt safe with her around. 

The problem with good dogs is you have to say goodbye too soon. A bitter reality that makes you question if you want to go through it all again … but then you do. 

Our current dog is a Lab named Rev. Not sure he would measure up in the usefulness department. “That dog won’t hunt” could be a literal description of his trips to the duck blind. He’s not much of a guard dog, either. If an intruder broke in, Rev would probably be looking for a place to hide. 

But he is as gentle as a lamb, and a lovable, trustworthy companion to our kids. That’s enough to make him a good dog in my book. 

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